Root Film is a visual novel from Kadokawa Games with a meaningful and expressive title, as the main protagonist’s ultimate goal is to become the director of a popular TV series, and the story in general discusses how film making is an important part of artistic expression and promoting cultural heritage.
The developer considers film use and adoption in movie making to be better than digital photography in terms of color effects, among other things. This reflects the important meaning behind the choice of the word “Film” in the title, as well has hinting at the significance of the concept in the story execution and some gameplay elements as well.
Root Film is similar in name and setting to the previous work of the same developer “Root Letter“. Despite this, its not related to its predecessor in anyway, and it can be considered a totally new story with different characters and a more mature outlook on life than the previous one.
Root Film is now available for PS4 (Tested) and Nintendo Switch.
Root Film Review
The debate between which is better: Old Film Photography or Digital Photography has been ongoing for ages between members of the craft. Each side will argue that some factors are better done manually, such as color consistency or resolution, and others many argue that all of this is just as achievable in digital format.
Since this article is not about proving a point, or getting depth about this situation. I will get behind something many of us can understand and that is the essentiality of old techniques in making you feel the vibrations of the camera, the process of developing the film, and the little anticipation you are stricken with when you complete the developing process and hurry up to check if your effort has paid off.
It’s something the new generation wouldn’t be able to feel. The uncertainty of everything, the story behind each taken photo, which might be more important than the photo itself. Those extra steps might be harsh and annoying to some photographers, but they are all there is to some others. I quote from someone related to the medium as well: “Air conditioning is better, but I still like to open the windows”.
The genuine and natural feelings of love in the air, this is what Rintaro Yagumo, the young film director is looking for. He was striving to reshoot the long lost tv series “Shimane Mystery Drama Project”, since the show was mysteriously cancelled after a few beta episodes were filmed, and being a lover of unsolved mysteries, his goal was not only to revive the lost series, but to solve the mystery of why its development was halted in the first place.
When our director detective is appointed as one of the three main directors responsible for reshooting the series, a young rising actress accompanies him as the main star of his tv work, and together they head out to explore the ideal shooting locations within Japan’s Shimane Prefecture, a fascinating place full of history and ancient charm.
Unfortunately, once they make little headway in their work, the two find themselves caught up in a tragic suicide incident (or perhaps murder?). Later, the two start to participate in the investigation, assist the police and offer their perspective on what happened and who or what might have caused it.
Is it really the curse of the show? to never be completed under any circumstances, or is it just a coincidence? Together with the main duo, we’ll find the answer through spending time reading scripts, putting in some effort in choosing where to go, and doing Ace Attorney-style conversations and interrogations.
Root Film acts as a Kinetic Visual Novel most of the time, meaning that reading long chunks of text over static pictures accounts for 90% of the experience. The game often gives you the freedom to go anywhere you want, with enough hints about the next person and place of concern, along with some side events or secrets to uncover for unlocking multiple prizes.
As you play, you will alternate between Yagumo and His sister Riho in tackling the situations at hand, who both tend to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when something goes unintended, making it hard to figure out the complete picture, and inviting you to piece the puzzle together yourself through collecting evidence and having many deep conversations with a lot of related parties.
The evidence you find is not not something concrete like forensic analysis or official reports, but rather the statements of other people, and your personal observations and conclusions after talking to those people. It makes sense because you are not an actual investigator, and its very similar to Danganronpa in how the dialogue flow is supported by the pieces of information you collect along the way and leads into a narrative fighting climax.
If you get the sequence of the words wrong, you will lose the interrogation and maybe the game will be over because you were not able to get the other person to confess their crimes (Ironically, having a system like this defeats the purpose of the initial curse setting). But there is no need to worry as the game is very forgiving and straightforward with its autosave feature so it doesn’t matter if you lose or not.
The game also makes use of video cameras to create interesting puzzles, and takes extra care with the clothing’s and daily habits of the characters to really express their belonging to this elegant region of Japan. There is an intense amount of dialogue between the characters to reflect that and we felt like it revitalized the written text more than root letter, which focused mainly on the use of internal monologues to the point it became very monotonous after a while.
Root Film has a really interesting story. It can just get a bit confusing at times because of how often you will have to switch between different perspectives, but just like any mystery story, plot threads tie up nicely at the end, and you can even deduce the culprit from the hints present and the process is really satisfying.
There are some horrifying parts but its not too gory or intimidating. The real investment in this game comes from the immersive re-drawn locations from real inspirations with hand drawn touches here and there to make them the most beautiful and rich in details as possible. The character art also felt really unique and the emotions portrayed through the voice acting are always top-notch.
The game after completion (takes around 16-18 hours to finish) allows the player to check all CGs and cutscenes unlocked during the story, listen to the soundtracks, and there is also a short secret scene at the end that gives us additional insight into what happened in the main story and enhances the main themes of Root Film as a whole.
- A unique reflection one of Japan's most breathtaking areas through art and narrative
- Well handled mystery and topics not explored enough in the medium
- Great pacing and easy accessibility options (No need for any guide)
- Full voice acting in Japanese
- Story can get really confusing and divisive at parts because of the changing perspective
- Need to talk to a lot of characters to gain the ability to use certain clues